BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

JACQUI

The Best Deceptions: Ch1
Monday, December 19, 2005

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. (Jayne/Kaylee).


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3159    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Jayne and Kaylee? From me!??!?! Who would have ever thought?

This is a Christmas gift for RinnyPJ, who requested Christmas fluff and so... I give you all, the fluffiest piece of fluffy fluff that ever fluffed...

Disclaimer: The ones you've seen, they're Joss'. The ones you haven't, they're mine.

Rated: G, for now, but it's gonna get a little hotter eventually.

Feedback: Is so very shiny. I love it all. Give it me, give it me good. Comment or email: wily_one24@yahoo.com.au

***

THE BEST DECEPTIONS.

"You still on that rat trap of a sinking kettle?"

Kaylee smiled into the cortex screen in Inara's shuttle. Those blue eyes had always been enough to hypnotize her, had always made her a little giggly. Now they were just making her ache a little. It had been too long, too damn long.

"You shush up, Daddy, Serenity is the best ship I ever sailed in an' you know it."

There was a small ripple of laughter.

"It's the only ship you ever sailed in, girl." A pause. "You comin' home any day soon? Your ma misses ya somethin' awful, an' Joe and Betty have a new girl you ain't even seen yet."

"And you?"

"Well," she wasn't fooled by the gruffness, "didn't you hear? Joe and Betty got a new girl, I got no time for missin' folk who ain't here."

"Don't you listen to him, sunshine." The screen filled with her mother. "He's the one bellyaching all the time about you. He misses you more'n the rest of us put together."

"Well, ain't one of you know how to help me in the shop worth a damn."

Kaylee reached out to the screen and wanted to touch them.

"Who else you gonna be missing, daddy, if not for folks who ain't there?"

There was a sigh and Kaylee tried to figure out which of them had given it.

"How you doin', really? You tell me the truth now."

"I'm fine, daddy."

"You sound tired, you getting enough sleep?"

"Ma, I'm good. I promise."

"Don't harass the girl, Mary."

"I ain't harassing her. Just statin' the truth. Lord knows what kind of life she's leading on that ship out in space."

"Thor's Hammer, woman! As if Kaywinnit Lee Frye didn't know how to live her life! We raised her better than that."

"Yes, you did, daddy."

"Matter of fact, we raised her to be just about hitched up by now. You got yerself a man yet?" Pause. "A man for more'n a day or two?"

"Frank!" Kaylee didn't see exactly what happened, but she heard the little yelp her father gave and smiled. "Kaylee, girl, you listen to me, you know there's Mick here, just waitin' for you to traipse back to town. Or Mike if'n you want. They'd both have ye, lickety split if you just crooked your finger. Nice planet boys, both of 'em."

She sighed.

"Ma, you know I ain't hookin' up with Mick or Mike. I told you that back when I was fourteen."

"They're nice boys young lady. Honest boys, an' they both have steady work. They'd do good by you, you know they would."

"Mary, she's not gonna hook up with either of them Matthews boys. You know it an' I know it. She might as well hook up with Joe an' we ain't that kinda planet."

"There's plenty of other planet boys who'd just jump at the chance, they have a long memory where you're concerned, Kaylee, you're still the prettiest girl ever lived here."

"I don't need fixin' up, Ma!" Kaylee breathed in an' knew she was gonna go to Book's special hell. "Matter of fact, I already found me a man. He's real good, you're gonna love him."

Silence.

"Ma? Daddy?"

"You got yerself a fella and you ain't told us yet?"

"Oh, daddy, don't be sore."

"It ain't that captain of yours is it? Reynolds? 'Cause I gave him a talkin' to when you was here last an if he's gone and..."

"Daddy!" She almost laughed at the thought. "It ain't Mal."

"Well." He sounded almost mollified. "If you're not gonna visit us, at least send your poor mother a capture or something so she can see him."

Kaylee knew she was gonna regret it. Knew it the way she knew there was something wrong with Serenity before she ever gave a complaint. She just knew it was gonna come back and bite her in the ass.

It was a damn near certainty.

***

"What are you doin'? Don't come near me with that capture!"

"Aw, come on, Jayne, I'm getting somethin' from everyone."

"No you ain't."

"Well, I haven't gotten to them, yet, have I?"

"But what am I s'posed to say? I ain't ever met your folks."

"They'll love you, Jayne, everyone adores you. Just say Merry Christmas and you wish you could meet 'em, 'cause they sound so nice."

"Kaylee, you ain't never told me about 'em..."

"Just say it!"

"Why're you bein' so weird?"

"Ready? And... go!"

***

"Mornin' Cap'n! Jayne!" Kaylee grinned as she joined the table. "What's up?"

"Got a job." She looked at Mal, looked at the way his eyes were watching her and knew something was up. "Gonna take us near Aberdeen in about two weeks. We'll be there for Christmas."

"Oh." Her smile faltered. "Oh, really?"

"I already buzzed your folks. We should get a reply soon."

"Hey." Jayne looked up from his breakfast. "You reckon your ma'll make that apple cobbler again? The one she sent back with you that first time? That was damn near better'n a moist woman."

"Jayne!" She hissed.

"What?" He pouted. "It was."

Kaylee groaned and buried her head in her hands.

"You can't say that kinda stuff around my ma, Jayne."

"Don't matter, I ain't gonna get off the ship."

She looked up and smiled her best smile, usually reserved for Mal, Simon or anyone holding fresh fruit. And, right now, Jayne. Kaylee threw in a few well placed blinks of her eye lashes.

"Can I ask you a favor?"

Jayne looked at her warily.

"This isn't like that time you smiled all sweet an' I ended up spending the afternoon knee deep reroutin' the sewer vac while you shouted orders from afar, is it?"

Blink.

"Kaylee?" He tried to frown at her, he tried real hard.

Blink. Blink.

"Please, Jayne?" She willed her heart to pump blood into her cheeks, make 'em all red. "For me?"

"Mal?" Jayne's voice was near a whine.

"Don't look at me, I got no resistance. Last time she looked at me like that, we spent half the ship allowance on a part I ain't never seen in action yet."

There wasn't much left to do. Kaylee sighed.

"Okay, well, the thing is, last time I was talkin' to 'em, my folks got all up and tetchy about me being in space without a man. Again. An' it was just gonna lead to 'em telling me I should be back home. Again. An' I kinda led them to think I did have a man about."

"You let them believe?" Mal asked, pointedly.

"Or told. Whatever. Let's not dwell." She replied. "Well, see, then they wanted to see him. And so I sent them a capture of someone, real nice man sayin' hi and howdy and he was real sorry he couldn't meet 'em and..."

Jayne laughed.

"What kind of idiot's just gonna sit there and pretend in some capture for your folk, just sit there and say howdy and he wishes..." His words tailed off and he glared. "Gorram it, Kaylee!"

Mal blinked.

"Jayne?" He asked with only the hint of a smile on his face. "Did you just happen to sit there and say howdy into a capture and that you wish you could meet Kaylee's folk?"

"Um... maybe?"

"So?" Kaylee wheedled. "Will you? Just, you know, come and meet 'em, say hi, and play along for a day or so?"

Jayne frowned even further and Mal smiled wider.

"Kaylee, ain't nothin' good can come of this."

She grinned, knowing it was already decided.

"On one condition." He added, bringing a puzzled crinkle to her brow. "You deceived me, girl, an' I ain't happy 'bout that. So you want me to play your beau, I ain't gonna be that easy. We doin' this, we're gonna do it proper."

"Proper?" She didn't like the sound of that.

"You've got..." He looked at Mal. "What, two weeks? Two weeks, Kaylee, you've got to court me, woo me all dignified like."

"What?" She laughed. "You want me to woo you?"

But Jayne wasn't laughing, he sat and watched her without blinking until her smile died down.

"You're kidding!" He shook his head. "Mal!"

"Hey!" Mal raised his hands. "Sounds fair if you ask me."

Kaylee took a breath and glared.

"Fine. That's the way you're gonna play it, Jayne Cobb, fine. I'll court you. And you'll be damn near smitten at the end of the two weeks! You'll see!"

Somehow, he wasn't sure how, she'd made it sound almost like a threat. Jayne chuckled as she left the room again.

"Hope you know what you're doin'." Mal was watching him.

"What?" He grinned. "Girl's gonna play around for a day or two and I'll tease her and play hard to get until she gives up. It'll be fun. I'll still play her man back home."

Mal didn't stop watching him.

"You really think she's just gonna give up?"

Jayne sighed.

"Well, yeah, I ain't that easy. I can play hard to get."

"Firstly, yeah, you are that easy. Secondly, it's her folks, Jayne. Think about it, this is Kaylee, tryin' to make her folks happy so they'll be happy to let her stay on Serenity. You think she's just gonna give up?"

That got Jayne thinking.

"Probably not."

"If the shoe was on the other foot, Jayne, what wouldn't you do to keep Ma Cobb happy?"

The glint that sparked in Jayne's eyes told Mal that maybe it hadn't been the best approach he'd ever taken.

"You play nice, Jayne." There was a sigh. "And I don't just mean for her sake."

***

It started the next day.

"Morning Mr. Cobb."

"Wha?" Jayne scratched his head as he blinked, grateful enough to have gotten to the top of his ladder without falling down it again after the amount of drinking he'd done the night before. "Kaylee? S'at you?"

"I was wondering if I could walk you to breakfast." He blinked the sleep out of his eyes and took a closer look. Damn, she was all bright and shiny and exactly how early had she gotten up to have scrubbed herself so clean and look so perky at this hour? "I mean, if you don't mind."

"Uh... sure."

She took his arm and led him past the crew cabins.

"Kaylee?" He began with a puzzled frown. "The kitchen's thataway."

"So it is." She smiled widely. "I thought we'd take the long way, spend some time."

"Yeah." Jayne tried not to look back towards the kitchen as his stomach growled. "That's... okay."

***

"Hey, man, you got a minute?"

Jayne looked puzzled as he followed a very nervous Wash off to the bridge before lunch.

"What?"

"Um..." Wash laughed.

"Look, you got something to say, little man, just say it."

"Ok, well." There was a small hiccup of a giggle and then Wash breathed in, before letting his words out all in one breath. "Zoe said that Mal said that Inara said that Kaylee said you're kinda swai."

"What?" Jayne glared. "What in the gorram hell you been smokin', Wash?"

Wash sighed.

"Zoe told me that Mal told her that when he and Inara were speaking, she told him that Kaylee once told her that she thought you were swai."

"You havin' a go?" Wash shook his head and Jayne let his brain catch up with him. "Kaylee really said that, huh?"

***

She smiled at him as she entered the ship with her parcels.

"What?" He asked.

Kaylee grinned even more.

"What?"

"Nothin'." And then she giggled as she sped past him. "Just nothin'."

He found out that night over dinner.

"We havin' steak?" He just about drooled over the plate Kaylee handed him.

"No." Mal glared. "Just you."

***

"Hey Jayne?" She came up behind him, her voice all happy and cheerful. "You wanna play some cards?"

"Wish I could, Kaylee." And he did, he really did. "But it's my turn to do dishes tonight."

"Oh, pifsh." She made a face, all screwed up, at the sink in front of him and grabbed a dish cloth. "I'll help, you'll be finished in no time."

"You don't have to..."

But she was already shoving him aside with her hip, pushing into his space and not even caring about his protests. And, really, when he thought about it, he didn't mind at all.

He kinda liked it, as a matter of fact.

***

She waited for him the next morning and the morning after that. Jayne began to expect it and it didn't matter much if he started to get up earlier and earlier, trying to beat her to the punch. 'Course it didn't mean nothing.

He was so happy the first day he got to her door first and that didn't mean nothin' either.

Pretty soon there wasn't anything to blink at if Kaylee came to him, asked him to help her with something, asked if she could help him, dragged him into playing a game of ball, or just ended up laughing with him over some stupid joke or other.

Not that he forgot it were nothin' but a game, nothin' but them pretending and having fun with it. Kaylee weren't really interested in him and, if he thought he saw her blushing sometimes or looking at him with more than friendship, it was obviously his overactive imagination and the fact they both did such a good job.

Of pretending.

***

"Kaylee." He said it one night when they were both sitting in the common room, about to pack up the cards after everyone else had gone to sleep. "You don't need to keep doin' this, playin' these games. I'll do it. I'll play your beau."

She looked at him with a frown and he saw the embarrassment flood into her cheeks as her eyes clouded over.

"Oh, sorry!" Her hands fumbled over the cards and two of them fluttered to the table. She scrambled to pick them up in shaking fingers. "I thought we was having fun. I didn't... I'll stop. I'm just..."

"No, that ain't what I..."

He sighed and reached over to grab her hands, to stop them shuffling the cards in a frantic attempt to distract herself. She wouldn't look up and he found himself pulling her towards him, reaching up to grasp her head and kissing her hard.

It wasn't at all like he'd thought it would be. Firstly, when he thought about it, she was always kissin' him back. But she just kinda sat there frozen, her lips mashed against his and it wasn't fun in any sense of the word.

She burst back from him, face red and mouth open in shock.

"Jayne!"

"See?" He gestured at her. "You wanna fool your folks, you gotta stop bein' so skittish."

"Oh." She looked at the floor. "Okay."

"Go on." He took the cards from her. "You go to bed. We'll talk more tomorrow."

After she was gone, he could still taste her on his lips and he didn't want that to stop. Good gorram, but Mal was right. This was gonna be both fun and very, very painful.

***

Kaylee yawned as she worked on the engine. It was so damned early, but she couldn't help it, she had to get up and away from her bunk before Jayne was awake. She didn't know what to say to him when he'd meet her at her door or, worse still, she didn't know what she'd do if he didn't.

Things had gone so horribly, horribly wrong and they hadn't even reached Aberdeen yet. They weren't gonna be able to pull this off. No way, not if she kept getting all flustered and nervous as a little girl every time he got near and started that flirting he did.

And the man knew how to flirt.

It was almost criminal. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks at the thought, wondering what he'd be like if he meant it. The stray thought came to her, something the preacher had said about webs and deceptions and he was right, of course he'd been right.

Jayne was only trying to do what she asked, he was just pretending to like her so much and she had to go and ruin it all by getting all jumpy about it. Poor man had even tried to tell her how bad she was bein', asked her right out to stop it.

She waited until there was no chance he could still be there before she left, heading to the kitchen to get something to eat.

He was there.

Kaylee actually felt something catch in her throat when she saw him leaning against her door, head bowed, looking tired as if he'd been there for a long time.

"Morning."

"Wha...?" Jayne looked up at her, down to her door, then back up. "Um, hi."

He didn't even blink as he stepped out and joined her, fitting by her side easily, and it made her warm. They walked together and she told herself to forget it, to just stop thinking about it so much.

"Kaylee?" He began. "About last night..."

"Oh, you know what?" She brushed in, not letting him finish. "Don't worry 'bout it, the whole thing is just stupid. I'm just gonna go alone and tell 'em the truth."

"But...?"

He looked confused as they entered the kitchen.

"I said forget it, Jayne."

"Good news!" Mal looked up at them from the table. "Just got word back from your folk, Kaylee. They're plannin' a great big dinner for Christmas an' we're all invited. We ain't allowed to say no."

Jayne smiled as he placed his hands on the back of a chair and pulled it out for her with a little flourish. She groaned and sat down.

***

There was no way she could do it, there was absolutely no way she could make her folks believe that she and Jayne were anywhere close to bein' a couple. Sure, Jayne could pull it off, he was doin' so well with it, but she was just gonna ruin it.

She couldn't go alone, there'd be too many questions and not only that, if her Pa thought anyone on ship had hurt her in any way then she'd be yanked out of the job quicker than she'd been stuffed into it.

Nope, there was only one thing left to do, much as she wanted to see them.

***

"Kaylee? What's wrong?"

"Nothin', Captain, it's just... well... I don't wanna go home right now. Can you maybe make up somethin' and tell my folk we can't get there?"

"Kaylee...?"

"Please?"

***

"So, Mr. Frye?"

"Captain Reynolds! You takin' good care of my daughter, I hope?"

"'Course I am, 'course I am."

"Good. We're lookin' forward to seein' you all in a week or so. It'll be good to see who she's livin' with. Give us all some peace of mind. Her ma's been right nervous about it."

"Well, see, there's been a problem there."

"Problem? Son, there ain't no problem gonna keep us from seein' our daughter again."

"Our contact has pulled out an' we need the work, there's a lotta bellies on this ship, includin' your daughter. We got another job that'll be just as good, but it's gonna put us in a whole 'nother quadrant. We won't be anywhere near Aberdeen come Christmas."

"So, you just drop our Kaylee and this man of hers off and you take the rest of your ship off to do that work. They can spend the whole week here."

"I don't know if that's the best..."

"There any particular reason you can't do without my daughter for a week, Captain Reynolds? I think she'd appreciate you lettin' her have some time with her family."

"Well, I..."

"It's all settled then. You just get them both here soon as you can. We'll be waitin'."

***

"I'm gonna kill you, Captain!"

"Kaylee, listen, it's not my fault, I tried, but that man talked so fast..."

"And now we have to spend a whole week there? Together? Actin' like a couple?"

"Yes?"

"You couldn't say the ship was actin' funny and you needed a mechanic around just in case?"

"Hey, that woulda been perfect!"

"It's too late now. You just better hope I don't leave this ship with a straining reg drive."

"You wouldn't do that to your baby, not your ship?"

"Fine. When do we get there?"

"Tomorrow?"

"I'm gonna kill you, Captain!"

***

"I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't do it."

"Kaylee?"

"I just can't do it."

"Kaylee, you trust me at all?"

"'Course I do, Jayne. You, I trust. Me? Not so much."

"You can do this. I'll be there. It'll be a piece of piss."

"Nice."

"Jayne, you might wanna curb that tongue of yours..."

"You shut the hell up, Captain. I ain't talkin' to you."

"Aw, c'mon Kaylee, he didn't do nothin' wrong. Look, way I see it, you wanna see your folk, yeah? This'll make 'em happy, yeah? So just do it and enjoy what you see of 'em. Okay?"

"You think so? You think we can do this?"

"See? Jayne's got it..."

"I told you to keep your mouth shut, Cap'n!"

"'Course we can do it, Kaylee."

***

She stopped walked halfway down the street.

"We can still turn back you know."

"Kaylee." Jayne placed his hand on the small of her back and guided her forward. "That blast you just saw? That was Serenity breaking atmo. If we ain't stayin' with your folks, you better have enough coin for a hotel."

They came out of nowhere.

"Kay!"

Jayne was still close enough that he could have sworn she mumbled something under her breath, but he was too busy flinging Cassie out of her holster to really catch what it was. She squealed as she was pulled out of his reach.

"Lee!"

"Right." He had one of them by the throat and a gun pointed right up under the chin of the one who held her. "You'll be wantin' to put her down now."

"Jayne!" She gasped, all giggles, even though both men had stopped moving. "It's okay, I know 'em."

Jayne used his thumb to release the safety trigger. Loudly.

"I notice you ain't put her down yet."

"Well." The man slowly let her inch to the ground and let go. "You must be the man Ma was talkin' about. I'm Mick. He's Mike."

"Jayne." Kaylee scolded as she reached out and pushed his gun arm down. "Play nice, okay? They're friends of mine."

He quirked his eyebrows and took a better look at them. Brown hair that hung loosely over their brows and around their ears, blue eyes and freckles from one end to the other. They were almost exactly alike. Jayne should have known they knew Kaylee, their happy faces shoulda tipped him right off.

"Twins?" He asked. "Twins named Mick and Mike?"

"We were named after each of our grandfathers." They said together.

Kaylee sighed and joined in the chorus.

"They were both named Michael!"

She rolled her eyes.

"You guys gotta come up with something new."

"What?" Asked Mick.

"He ain't heard it before." Finished Mike.

"Yeah." Kaylee grinned. "But the rest of us have."

"So this is the man that finally tamed the great Kaywinnit Lee, huh?" Mick looked Jayne up and down. "And they said it couldn't be done."

Jayne felt himself bristle under the attention.

"No." Mike pushed his twin's shoulder. "You said it couldn't be done."

"C'mon." Mick grabbed Kaylee's hand and gestured for Jayne to follow. "Ma's waitin' for both of you."

"Joe an' Betty are stayin' with the kids, too. Word got around fast you were stayin'." Mike gave Kaylee a wink. "So Ma's put you both in the small room."

"What?" Kaylee spun around. "In the same room? No."

Mick laughed out loud.

"Oh, c'mon Kay. Like anyone here still thinks you're a blushin' girl."

Kaylee did blush then.

"It ain't that, it's just..." She gestured to Jayne rather meekly. "He's shy."

Even Jayne laughed out loud.

"He sure don't look it."

***

There it was.

Oh, forget Jayne and all the hassle, she just about cracked open when she saw her house. Small little square box of a thing, wooden panels surrounded by a porch that went all the way around. Kaylee let her eyes slide over the familiarity of it all, the sudden shot that nothing ever changed.

There was the large tree in the front and she bet the carvings would still be there, maybe a little warped with time, but still readable to anyone who'd run their fingers over the names a million times.

Two years seemed too damn long all of a sudden.

"Jayne!" She couldn't help herself as one hand closed over his arm, then the other, both of them climbing him until she was grabbing his shoulder. "Look! That's it."

"Yeah. I thought as much."

Mick nudged Mike and they grinned, didn't even bother to hide it. No way known either of those two would notice them as Kaylee pulled him forward. A spaceship could land right on top of them and she probably wouldn't be able to tell them the color of the ship, let alone the make of it and, for her, that was really saying something.

And the man, Jayne, he was all too busy watching her, had been since they'd landed.

***

She could see the movement through the wire screen. Lots of busy movement, familiar shapes bustling around a familiar kitchen, their voices sounding exactly as she'd remembered.

At her back, she could feel Jayne and was grateful for him as her fingers lingered over the frame.

"Ma?" The door opened slowly and she stepped inside. "I'm back."

"Kaylee!" Mary Frye turned on the balls of her feet, twisting her hands into the apron she wore around her middle, in less than a second she was over to the door, wrapping her youngest child in her arms. "Oh, look at you."

"Ma." She squeaked it out from under the hands that ran over her, touching her hair and shoulders and arms and face, but she didn't try to get away. Kaylee preened under it. "Was that Joe I saw out by the yard, settin' up tables?"

"You don't miss a trick, do ya girl? Never did." Big, strong hands held her shoulders and pushed her away, just enough for sharp eyes to scan her from head to toe. "We got a few people comin'. Everyone heard you was comin' back."

"Hi, Kaylee."

Soft and shy, she looked up to see the woman standing behind her mother. She was tall, slender and had blue eyes tucked into round cheeks.

"Betty, oh." She smiled and gave a wave. "You look good. How's Lilly? And I heard you guys had a new girl? Where is she? Let me see."

"That child is sleeping." Mary said. "You leave her be. Where is this man I've heard nothing about?"

Kaylee turned to see the dark shadow in the doorway.

"Ma, this is Jayne."

'Well, come in, come in. On second thought." Kaylee found herself being shooed out the door. "Let's go out into the light. I wanna see you both."

Jayne found himself standing still under the scrutiny of a weathered maelstrom. She looked as deceptively small as her daughter, but Jayne knew Kaylee and he guessed this woman was the sort to blow through a person and leave a hell of a mess in her wake when she needed to as well. Her brown hair was liberally streaked with gray, her eyes and mouth crinkled at the edges, and her hands were well worn.

"Well, well." And her brown eyes were every bit as sharp as Kaylee's, too. "Aren't you strapping?"

"Ma'am." Jayne ducked his head a little. "Nice to meet you."

He noticed the surprised squint Kaylee gave and stopped himself making an expression back at her. He was bought up proper, Mr. Jayne Cobb, and he knew how to talk to some people the right way. Might never be Mal or the Doc, but his own Ma and Pa and now Kaylee's folk were definitely some people.

"Come, come, don't be shy. You call me Ma like everyone else around here does." She must have caught the look on his face, the quick blanch of Kaylee's face or even heard the soft sound of stifled laughter coming from the twins behind him. "Oh, it don't mean nothin'. Those Mathews' boys've been calling me Ma since they were knee high to a grasshopper."

"Look!" Jayne glanced up to see Kaylee pushing her way between him and the woman he had no choice but to call Ma now. His breath caught when he saw what was in her arms. "Jayne! Look, I've got another niece."

"Ivy." Spoke up another woman, taller than Kaylee or her Ma, she didn't look like either of 'em, either. The way her eyes lingered over the baby in Kaylee's arms made Jayne suspect she was the sister in law, which meant Kaylee had a brother somewhere. "She came out clinging and don't let go. Frets somethin' awful if you put her down for any length of time."

They were still all watching him, Jayne could feel it, in the way that three women standing together hovering over a baby can still pick apart every single move a man made. They were like hunting dogs, only more terrifying.

"Kinda scrawny, ain't she?"

"Jayne!" Kaylee's horrified gasp made him grin as she tucked the child further into her arms and shielded it from him. "That's a horrid thing to say, she ain't scrawny at all!"

"I'm just kiddin', Kaylee, kid's as cute as a button."

He grinned and leant around Kaylee to peer at the baby. Thing was cute, he wasn't gonna argue that point, didn't stop him focusing on the way he placed his hand on the small of her back and the fact she didn't flinch away from him.

"She's got the prettiest parents is why." Kaylee nodded to the woman. "Jayne, this is Betty, Joe's wife. Joe's my brother, he's the one around the corner settin' up."

"Auntie Lee!"

"Lilly?"

Jayne barely had time to register Kaylee turning around or the little bundle of warmth she thrust into his arms before a small girl barreled into Kaylee, arms flying.

"Oh, no, it can't be." Kaylee laughed. "I thought it was my niece, Lilly, but she's just a bitty thing. You, you're all grown up, you can't be her."

"It's me." The girl was tiny, all arms and legs, like a colt, her hair was light brown and tucked away in a pony tail behind her head. "I'm nine now."

"No." Kaylee grinned. "You can't be her, if you were her, you'd be all ticklish just... over... here."

The two were off in a blur of squealing and giggles. Jayne grinned as he watched Kaylee chase the little girl off the porch and around the side of the house. He looked down to see the baby in his arms. Thing had huge brown eyes and more than a close resemblance to her Aunt.

"Well, that's them out of our hair." Ma clapped her hands together. "We still got a lot of work to do in here, you'll be alright with that then, Jayne?"

"Um." He looked at the baby then up at her. "Sorry?"

"Oh, you're a natural, I can tell. And she likes you." She winked. "Come on, Betty, let's get this food ready."

"But..." And he was left standing there. Jayne turned to the twins. "Here, you want her?"

"What, us?" One of them said.

"No way." The other said, slowly backing up a few steps. "She's all yours."

"Yeah, we've gotta go help Joe." The first one pointed off to the side. "You stay here."

The quiet was broken by the sound of laughter and running as first Lilly, then Kaylee, rounded the far side of the house and kept running. Jayne leant his hip on the railing and watched, his eyes taking in just how much Kaylee's face lit up as she caught her niece and the two of them went scrawling in the grass. He bounced Ivy in his arms and heard her give a small, contented sigh.

"She really likes you, you know."

"What?" Jayne turned his head to the right to see one of the twins watching him. "Oh, the kid? Babies'll shush for anyone."

"Yeah." The other twin, and Jayne was gonna learn which soon enough, appeared on his left. "Those Frye girls all have similar tastes."

For the life of him, Jayne could have sworn he'd seen the two share a look and he didn't know what it meant.

***

Kaylee wasn't exactly sure why she was so nervous as she stood in the kitchen, stirring a wooden spoon through a large pot on the stove. It hadn't taken her more than an hour to convince her mother to let her help out.

"So?" She prompted.

"So?" Her mother drew the word out, teasing her until she urged her on. "I have to admit, I had reservations when you sent that capture. Man seemed a little abrupt, you get my drift, but he's a fine man, Kaylee. Anyone who can get along with the children so well can't be all that bad."

Kaylee grinned as she looked out the wire door to see Jayne sitting on the porch, easily cradling Ivy with one arm.

"Quit it." His voice sounded serious as is came through the wire door. "I ain't kiddin' around."

Lilly's laugh followed, Kaylee had her suspicions about how much was game playing and how close Jayne was to cracking, she'd overseen many times where River had tested his patience. She figured Lilly had a good ten minutes before somebody would have to intervene.

"And." Betty nudged her way past with a platter. "He's really quite swai, in a rugged kind of way, don't you think?"

"Yeah." Kaylee blushed before she could stop herself and then grinned. "Don't let Joe hear you say that."

"Your brother ain't got no worries on that score, child." Ma's voice was serious, but Kaylee saw the sparkle in her eye. "In fact, I think I got to have a talk with him, if certain news is correct."

She gasped and turned back to Betty.

"You're not?" Betty nodded. "Already? But Ivy ain't even six months yet. Here Ma, take the gravy."

Everything was washing over her too fast as she wrapped her sister in law in a fierce hug. Too much, too fast. It seemed so easy, to slip right back in, almost like she had never left, but she had and now things were building her up and up and up even further.

She just hoped when she fell down, it wouldn't be as fast or as far.

"Look at that." Ma glanced at the clock. "People are gonna start arriving soon. Kaylee, why don't you take that man of yours and go fetch your Pa? He's probably lost all sense of time workin' in that shop of his. He'll be fit to burst if we let him miss his daughter's home coming."

She'd forgotten how easily her mother could read her thoughts, the woman had eyes like a hawk and had always seen and sensed her moods.

"He's got steady work, then?"

"More'n ever this year." There was an unmistakable tone of pride in her mother's voice, which told Kaylee that she was telling the truth. "He's been working hard this week, tryin' to get it all done and over before Christmas and so's he can spend time with you."

"Maybe I'll have to help him then." She grinned. "Man was always too slow when he worked."

***

"And you didn't even wanna come."

They walked down the path together and Kaylee couldn't take the stupid grin off her face. Jayne kept looking down at her, gorram, but the girl looked so happy, her face all glowing and red.

"Oh, I don't know why." She gushed it. "Jayne, I missed everyone, I can't imagine not seein' 'em."

"Kaylee?" He watched her out of the corner of his eye, saw her look up at him. "You think they're watchin' us walk away?"

She grinned again.

"Probably will 'till we're outta sight and then some more, in case we come back."

"Then don't flinch, okay?"

"Flinch?" She stopped to look at him, puzzled. "Why? What're...?"

He threw an arm around her waist, pulling her body against his and kissed her, running his free hand down the side of her face. Unlike last time, this was exactly how he'd pictured it, her lips parting softly and her sighing against his mouth.

Jayne couldn't help it, his hand ran up the small of her back and pressed her harder, he couldn't get enough of the feel of her against him, small and soft and full all over.

Her hands came up to his head and held him there. That was more than he expected.

"Okay then." He set her back down again. "Where does your Pa work? And do I call him Pa, too?"

"Um..." Kaylee stood there dazed and blinking for a second before falling into step beside him again. "Not far, he's got a shop back in town. And, no, you don't call him Pa. He's Mr. Frye to you."

"Good to know."

As they walked, Jayne rested his hand on the small of her back and she didn't step away.

***

“Hey Joe, you need a hand?”

“Yeah.” He looked up to the house to see Lilly sitting by the bassinet, then turned to Mick. “There’re benches loaded on the mule over there.”

They turned to see Kaylee and Jayne walking off into the distance. She was as happy as Joe’d seen her look in a long while and that was near good enough for him. There were times when she’d sent a capture and he thought she’d been losing weight or there was something in her eyes which shouldn’t ever be there, but now, now he liked what he saw.

“Hey Mike.” He looked back. “What do you think of him?”

“Jayne?” Mike squinted towards the retreating couple. “Seems alright to us.”

“He’s totally smitten.” Mick laughed. “Not that he had any chance, not with Kaylee once she made up her mind. You seen the way he looks at her?”

They took a bench between them and started moving towards the tables. Joe’s eyes crinkled as he took in the way the man was so gentle with her. He’d seen worse when she was younger, not that she’d ever’ve put up with anyone bein’ out of turn with her, but she hadn’t always chased the boys for their romantic talents.

Hell, if the twins thought he was okay, how the hell could he argue? Those boys had a finely tuned radar when it came to Kaylee, almost made his protectiveness redundant, almost.

Mike laughed harder at Mick.

“Forget that, you seen the way she looks at him?”

***

"You call this a shop?" Her voice rang loud in the quiet store. "Bunch of fei oo machines, prob'ly don't even run."

Kaylee grinned as a man poked his head out from under one of the said machines.

"That you, girl?"

"Hey Daddy. You nearly done? Ma sent me to fetch you."

"For you? I'm always done. Gimme a minute." He disappeared again. "Was hopin' to get these done today, but no fuss, I'll come back tomorrow."

"That a Merchant '06 engine?" She whistled low. "I didn't think they were allowed in the air no more."

"You put whatever tool you just picked up down, girl." She looked back at Jayne and smiled sheepishly as she lowered the spanner. "You ain't here to work. Your momma'll have my hide I put you back in the shop."

"I won't tell if you don't."

He reappeared from the other side of the engine and took a good look at her, up and down.

"You been on this rock what, five minutes, you already trying to get me into trouble?" He grinned. "You ain't changed a bit. Come here."

It was fierce, this hug, from both sides and she let herself melt into his arms for just a second.

"You get yourself into trouble just fine, Daddy." She patted his back as she stepped away. "And this, you might've guessed, is Jayne."

"Jayne, huh?" He chewed on the corner of his bottom lip as he looked the man over. "Kinda girlie name ain't it?"

"Daddy!" She swatted his shoulder. "Jayne ain't a girl, don't be mean."

"You lookin' after my baby girl, Jayne?"

"Yes sir." Jayne nodded once, very definitely. "More'n she knows."

It was an act, she knew it was, had been since they landed, but Kaylee found herself blushing yet again. This was a side of Jayne she hadn't ever seen before.

And she liked it.

"Well, that's good enough for me. You can call me Frank." He gave Kaylee one more hug, then gestured towards the back of the shop. "I still got a few things to do, packing up and such, you two go on home, I expect your Ma's goin' just about crazy right now, getting ready for everyone. She needs you more'n I, I'll be along soon."

***

“I ain’t ever gonna remember all these names, Kaylee.”

She turned and beamed at him and Jayne frowned a little. She was bein’ weird, had been since they left her daddy’s shop. It might be just that she was home, but they’d been here for several hours. Maybe it was delayed weird.

“Yes you will.” Her head bobbed up and down quite happily as they walked. “Ma’s Mary and Daddy’s Frank, my brother’s Joe and his wife is Betty, the kids’re Lilly and Ivy. The twins are Mick and Mike, Mick’s got a freckle on his right cheek and he’s usually the one who speaks first.”

“They call her Ma as well? The twins?”

“Yeah.” Her smile faltered a little. “Ever since we was little. They live in the house across the field from us an’ we’ve always been at each other’s houses. They never had a mother of their own.”

“Really?” He gave her a raised eyebrow to lighten the mood. “You known ‘em all your life then? You and one of ‘em ever…?”

“Mick an’ Mike?” She laughed. “No. It ain’t ever been like that with either of them. They’re like my brothers.”

Just as the house came into view, they were accosted by a little girl.

“Auntie Lee! You gotta come, Nana Kent’s here and she’s been waitin’ to see you for so long. She said she was gonna throw somethin’ you don’t show yourself soon.”

“Nana Kent?” Kaylee gasped out loud and grabbed his hand. “She’s still walking?”

He was pulled up onto the porch to find a little, wizened old lady sitting in a chair in the shade. Her bones were thin and her hands shook a little, but her skin glowed a healthy bronze and her face was criss crossed all over with heavy wrinkles.

“Nana Kent.” Kaylee bent down to kiss her on the cheek. “You look good.”

“That her is it?” The woman squinted up at her. “That you, Winsome Winnie? They said you was back. ‘Bout time you settled down, had some younguns. Where’s this fella they keep tellin’ me about?”

“I’m only visiting, Nana Kent.” She patted the lady’s hand. “This here is Jayne.”

“Jayne?” He felt himself being pulled forward and tried to hunch down a little so she could see him better. “I ain’t never heard that name for a man, but I like it.”

She looked him up and down, squinting through her glasses, then grabbed Kaylee's arm.

"Good lord, child, how do you walk straight in the morning?"

“Nana Kent!” Kaylee blushed a deep red and Jayne chuckled.

“Relax, he looks like can handle himself.” She smiled and nodded at him. “So, don’t just stand there like a lump. Come here and greet me proper.”

He reached forward and took her hand. It looked like it would snap off if he squeezed too tight, but it felt strong, if a little shaky.

“Nice to meet you, Ma’am.”

“Ma’am nothin’.” She cackled. “You best be callin’ me Nana Kent like the rest of ‘em. Now scat, the two of you, don’t you be stuck here sittin’ with an old duck all night when there’s fun to be had.”

Kaylee shuffled him off the porch and towards another group of people.

“Winsome Winnie?” He asked.

“Don’t you listen none to her, ain’t nobody calls me that no more.”

“Kay!” Came a now familiar voice.

This time Jayne was close enough and was paying enough attention to catch the fact that she did mumble under her breath in the silent pause. He didn’t hear exactly what it was, though.

“Lee!” Came the second cry.

“Boys.” She grinned. “You didn’t tell me Nana Kent was comin’, or that she’s as filthy minded as she ever was.”

“You didn’t tell me your grandma was here.” He tried to figure out why all three of them grinned and couldn’t. “She your Ma’s Ma or your Daddy’s?”

“Neither.” She turned around and looked back at the porch. “She’s just called that. She’s the oldest person on this planet and no one really knows who she’s related to, she’s got no children or the like. Everyone just calls her Nana Kent.”

“How old is she?”

“Old enough.” Mick said with a voice that suggested he was regaling Jayne with a tale often told. “That no one remembers her ever being young.”

“Some say she came from Earth that Was.” Mike offered and Jayne snorted as Kaylee laughed. “But I’ve heard her say that her great, great, great granddaddy really was. That he came out on one of the worker ships.”

“Come on.” Kaylee pulled on his hand. “There’s still so many people to meet!”

Yup, Jayne knew, despite what she’d assured him, that he was never going to remember all of them.

***

More to come (hey, it beats 'to be continued' does it not?).

COMMENTS

Monday, December 19, 2005 4:37 AM

BOOKADDICT


Loved it! Wonderful characters. "This isn't like that time you smiled all sweet an' I ended up spending the afternoon knee deep reroutin' the sewer vac while you shouted orders from afar, is it?"

Kaylee can obviously talk anyone into anything!

Monday, December 19, 2005 5:43 AM

RINNYPJ


SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

I'm gonna be late to work cause I had to read this RIGHT NOW! I couldn't wait!

Monday, December 19, 2005 5:51 AM

CANTONHEROINE


Outstanding! And this is only their first real day together, too, right? I got a whole weeks worth of Jaylee-shipperness to look forward to? Yay! *bounces eagerly*
Keep it comin'!
;P

Monday, December 19, 2005 7:00 AM

NYKEGYRL


More!! Can't wait

Monday, December 19, 2005 8:15 AM

HUMBUG


Fan-ruttin'-tastic, Jacqui!

I ALWAYS love your Jayne/Kaylee fanfic, and this is no exception. Brilliant!!!

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Jayne and Kaylee pretending to be a couple for a whole week.......... Will they stop pretending and become a real couple by the end????!!! I can't wait to find out.......

Monday, December 19, 2005 10:32 PM

CUB


Girl, you write some downright *epic* fluff.

Absolutely the only thing I don't like about it is that it's waaay too similar to Christmas at my grandparents' house. Everyone even talks the same way. In other words, wonderful original characters, and all painfully true-to-life.

The Kaylee cajoling and Jayne's squirming at the beginning, then the courtship - those were all terrific. I even wish they had remained emotionally distant like that for longer. Seeing crass, gruff Jayne fumbling along entirely oblivious to his feelings (or manners) makes it more romantic in a way. I'm sure it would have been difficult to maintain that in a story this long and detailed, though.

That said, the part that made me laugh the loudest was this: "It ain't that captain of yours is it? Reynolds? 'Cause I gave him a talkin' to when you was here last an if he's gone and..."

Just the idea of that conversation had me in stitches. I wanna read *that* story!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 11:38 AM

BELLONA


"Firstly, yeah, you are that easy."
oh, happy, happy days...*sigh*

- Zoe said that Mal said that Inara said that Kaylee said you're kinda swai.
- What? What in the gorram hell you been smokin', Wash?
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! somehow, i always wash seemed like the gossipy type

"Good lord, child, how do you walk straight in the morning?"
with great difficulty ma'am!!!

and jayne with a baby!!! there are not half enough "awws" in the 'verse to descibe the idea...

b


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